A Dance of Beauty, a Dance of Brutality: Comparing ‘Black Swan’ and ‘The Wrestler’

Two films that have more in common than you might think.
By  · Published on June 15th, 2017

Two films that have more in common than you might think.

My favorite video essays are the ones that invite and support comparisons between works I might never have connectedotherwise. This is one such of those essays, edited by Alejandro Villareal, and the two works it brings face-to-face are Black Swan and The Wrestler.

Now, before you start correct-tweeting me, yes, I am aware of the very obvious connection between these particular films: they’re both directed by Darren Aronofsky. However, aside from that, on the surface these two films couldn’t seem more disparate, from the activity that forms their backgrounds – the grace of ballet versus brutality of wrestling – to the type of people on whom they place their respective focuses – a dancer on the rise and a wrestler on the last legs of his career.

But given that the two films share a director, they also share some inherent themes and traits of character, as well. As Villareal notes in his written intro: “Aronofsky takes his characters’ physicality and pushes them to the extreme. We cringe to see these two protagonists bruise, distort, strain, splinter, batter, wrench their bodies into rigorous instruments as they carry out their lives. The sound effect of an ankle twisting or the sight of a body being pummeled is both visually disturbing yet fascinating.”

By placing certain scenes from both films side-by-side, Villareal reveals the kinship between the characters and stories of Randy and Nina, both of whom at essence are highly-driven perfectionists just trying to make their individual skill sets work for them in a world that otherwise wouldn’t notice them. This is some eye-opening stuff here, enjoy.

Related Topics:

Novelist, Screenwriter, Video Essayist